VERMILLION, SD - South Dakota representative Kristi Noem is on the trail this week, focusing on education reform.

The congresswoman has met with parents, teachers and administrators from various South Dakota schools. And education is an issue which seems to have a pretty clear consensus.

The education system is broken. That's what Noem believes, and that's why she's listening to others who share that same viewpoint.

"I was glad she was open to that," University of South Dakota professor Gera Jacobs said. "She wanted to know our number one priority and to me, certainly the number one priority is starting out early and giving kids the right start in education."

As part of the Education and Work Force Committee in Washington, Noem and about 25 other legislators are figuring out the best way to reform the country's education.  Specifically, the No Child Left Behind Act.

"There are portions of our federal policy that have absolutely been broken," Noem said. "And these people certainly have the best advice on how we can fix it. It's my job to sit down and listen to them and to hear what their advice is and then take it back and be their voice."

Noem says one of the biggest problems with No Child Left Behind is its emphasis on standardized testing. She would prefer to replace it with what she calls a "growth model.

"At the beginning of the year, look at them and see how they're doing," Noem said. "At the end of the year, come back and see how much they've progressed individually. That's a much better gauge on the type of job that we're doing on educating our kids here in South Dakota."

And despite local budget cuts and other pressing issues across the country, Noem believes the building blocks of the future are on solid ground.

"I think education really is the one bright spot in Washington, D.C. this year," Noem said. "We see a lot of agreement in the fact that changes need to be made. We agree on what a lot of those are and we recognize that states and local school districts really need more flexibility."

Noem says the Education and Work Force Committee will meet throughout the summer and fall to craft about four or five bills to help reform policy.

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